Veterans Day: Featuring the Invalides, a Cathedral for French Veterans

By NTD Newsroom

In France, all injured veterans have a place where they can live until the end of their days. It is in the center of Paris and was created by King Louis XIV.

Once upon a time, there was a king so mindful of his army veterans that he decided to build a hospital for them to rest in, and a monumental cathedral where they could pray.

This is the story of the Invalides.

At a time when France went through many wars in the 17th century, Louis the 14th, also known as the Sun King, wanted a place where his injured soldiers may rest in peace and be provided for.

The tradition lives on to this day.

A 350-year-old royal edict remains in his office. Signed by the hand of the Sun King, “Louis, by the Grace of God.”

“We never, never give up an injured soldier. We take care of him, even if he is heavily injured and needs reeducation,” Invalides Hospital General Inspector Michel Guisset. “Some of them can be reintegrated in society, and we take care of that too.”

Up to 5,000 soldiers who have fought in war and against domestic terrorist attacks reside here.

The hospital has also over the centuries welcomed Europe’s most renowned scientists and doctors.

“It was here that doctors, from then until now, used to prepare the medicines that we know today,” Deputy Director of Invalides Institution Phillipe Havil said.

Napoleon’s grave is in The Chapel of Dome, next to the hospital, and has been since 1840. The Museum of the Armies was then built next to the hospital.

Some servicemen and women will finish their lives at the Invalides.

Bernard Grue was a colonel during the Indochina war, where he fought against Ho Chi Minh’s Việt Minh soldiers and was eventually captured after a severe injury.

At 102 years of age, he’s now one of the Invalide’s pensioners. He says he feels thrilled to live next to what he calls history and be a part of it.

“The state of mind behind this place is ‘greatness.’ The greatness of France, the greatness of Christianity. There are a lot of ceremonies in the church. The priest is also a former military man,” Grue said.

It’s a place where kings, generals, and soldiers meet, and where the nation can return the honor to those who honored them.

With reporting by David Vives.